Bolt Action Remedy by J.J. Hensley is the first book in the new Trevor Galloway Thriller series.
Former Pittsburgh narcotics detective Trevor Galloway has been hired to look into the year-old homicide of a prominent businessman who was gunned down on his estate in Central Pennsylvania. When Galloway arrives, he determines the murder could have only been committed by someone extremely skilled in two areas: skiing and shooting. He believes the assailant should not be too difficult to identify given the great amount of skill and athleticism needed to pull off the attack. When he discovers the victim’s property is next door to a biathlon training camp, the situation becomes significantly more complicated.
Galloway makes plenty of enemies as he sifts through stories about lucrative land deals, possible drug connections, and uncovers evidence suggesting the homicide may have been elaborate suicide. As he attempts to navigate through an unfamiliar rural landscape, he does his best not to succumb to an old drug addiction, or become confused by one of his occasional hallucinations.
“You have my attention,” I said unnecessarily.
Susan Lanskard wiped her eyes and said, “I’m afraid I have a teleconference I have to attend in the other room. When my father died, ownership of the company fell to me. And honestly, reliving all of this is very difficult for me.”
“I have a few questions before you go. Were you here when it happened?”
“No. I was finishing up my graduate degree at Dartmouth. Obviously, I made my way here as soon as Brady called.”
“Brady Mason is our head of security. He was standing beside my father when…anyway, he called me. He and his team work for me now.”
Her face had gone pale and another wave of emotional turmoil washed over her as she dabbed at her eyes.
She explained, “Unfortunately, along with inheriting the company, I inherited the threats that come along with the business. Therefore, there is still a need for security personnel.”
Colby watched Lanskard for several seconds and shook off a concerned look before standing up and saying, “Let’s take a drive, Trevor. I’ll explain everything on the way. If you aren’t intrigued by the time I’m finished, I’ll bring you back here and you can get in your car and head back to Pittsburgh.”
“Where are we going?”
“Like I said, the suspects are right next door.”
It turned out that next door was a relative term. The Lanskard property consisted of an immense expanse of land that placed the closest neighbor several minutes away by vehicle. The Washaway Township cruiser was the typical Ford police package and the chief of the township kept the vehicle immaculate. She drove cautiously down the icy roads and lowered her police radio to a near whisper.
“How many officers do you have reporting to you?” I asked.
“Three at the moment. We had one retire last month, but we haven’t replaced him yet.”
I said, “I assume from the green uniforms, the department has been around for quite a while.”
She shot me a sideways glance and asked, “What makes you say that?”
I pulled a pair of sunglasses out of my jacket pocket as the sun broke through the clouds, illuminating the terrain.
“Well, I’ve only seen a few departments with green uniforms. The West Virginia State Police, the Chesterfield County Police in Virginia, and the U.S. Border Patrol all chose green long ago because they needed it for sneaking up on moonshiners or hiding in the brush. I’ve never seen a newer department choose to wear green.”
Colby said, “It’s the same with us. We were organized during prohibition and the uniforms stuck. From time to time, someone makes a push to change them because they think we look like park rangers, but I’m partial to them.”
The road bent around a cluster of trees and Colby slowed to the car to a near crawl before a small straightaway appeared.
“How do you know Chase? Did he work narcotics with you?” she asked.
“Everybody knows Chase.”
She laughed. “I suppose that’s true. Of course, your name seems to get around, too.”
I went silent and let the moment pass.
“You don’t talk about yourself much, do you?”
“Not much,” I said. “No need. Like you said, I was in the news. I’m sure you guys have Internet access here and I bet you looked me up.”
“I did,” she admitted. Her eyes shifted away. “There was some pretty rough stuff online. I’ll understand if you don’t want to talk about it, but I can’t say I’m not curious.”
“Maybe later,” I lied. “For now, why don’t you tell me what I don’t know about the case?”
Colby took a breath and seemed to collect thoughts about an investigation that was personal to her.
She began, “Nearly one year ago, Peter Lanskard was returning home from a meeting in Arkansas and he was gunned down near the spot where you parked your car. It was a single shot to the head that came from the eastern tree line. The distance from where the shooter set up to where Peter fell is about five hundred yards.”
I arched an admiring eyebrow and she caught the look.
“I know,” she said. It was a pretty impressive shot, especially considering it was snowing at the time.”
I weighed this and recalled all I knew about snipers. “I suppose it’s impressive, but not astounding. The best shots out there can hit a target from about a mile away if the conditions are right.”
“Just wait, you’ll be more impressed in a minute,” she said. “Mr. Lanskard was being driven home from the regional airport by his long-time driver Jason Leonard. His head of security, Brady Mason was riding shotgun and the rest of the detail was already in place on the property. Four minutes before the car entered the property, Mason was notified that one of the electronic perimeter alarms had been tripped. He advised Lanskard that when they arrived at the house, he should remain in the car until someone could check it out, but Lanskard insisted on getting out.”
“He wasn’t concerned?”
“The alarm being tripped was a common occurrence. Lanskard absolutely refused to put up any fencing around the property, so deer and coyotes were always setting the thing off. It drove his security detail nuts, since they were the ones who had to check it each time, but Lanskard didn’t want a tall chain-link fence sullying the environment.”
Recalling what I knew about Mountain Resource Solutions, I cocked my head and said, “You do see the irony, right?”
Colby smiled and said, “It is not lost on me one bit. Anyway, Lanskard got out of the car, dallied around for a minute, then fell dead from a .308 round to the head. We found the shell casing later. Mason never saw the shooter and another security man, Mark Letterman—who you had the pleasure of meeting at the house—failed to locate the shooter even though he was already en route on a tracked ATV to see what set off the alarm.”
“Letterman seems like a real people person,” I said sarcastically.
The chief slowed the car around another hairpin turn and observed, “You don’t exactly strike me as a social butterfly either. So far, I haven’t seen you smile once.”
“Point taken,” I said. “Do you have any idea how the shooter managed to escape detection?”
“He didn’t, exactly. He set off the alarm, took the shot, and alerted the system again on the way out. Letterman said he was right there the entire time and can’t figure out how the shooter got by him.”
I shrugged and said, “Things like that happen. It’s not that hard to miss someone in the woods. Or maybe Letterman isn’t very observant.”
“Perhaps,” she said. “But, the questions lay in the timing. That’s the most intriguing part of all of this.”
“Get this,” she began. “The alarm sensor that was set off is nearly one mile from the tree line.”
I let that sink in for a moment as the car crested a hill and descended into an open valley. I said, “Are you telling me that someone ran a mile in the snow at a breakneck pace, set up in a shooting position, and managed to get off a perfect headshot before escaping the same way?”
A corner of Colby’s mouth curled up as she said, “Nobody ran.”
I felt stupid for my initial assumption and said, “Of course not. They used some sort of all-terrain vehicle.”
The chief shook her head and said, “Nobody heard a vehicle and we didn’t find any foreign track marks. All the ATVs up here have tracks on them so they can get through the snow and it seems Letterman had the only one in the area. So, no vehicle was used.”
I waited, but Colby was enjoying my confusion. I cleared my throat, prompting her to end the game.
“Skis. The shooter skied onto the property and crossed relatively flat ground in no time at all.”
My mind processed this information and I stayed silent as our car approached some sort of complex. Finally, I came to the realization that the facts of the case—if accurate—were extremely telling. Part of me wanted to chastise the young chief for not fully understanding that her baffling case wasn’t so baffling after all.
“At first glance, you have two highly possible scenarios,” I said. “The first is that Letterman is lying and he’s your shooter. It is awfully convenient that he was on an ATV and managed to not see anyone out there.”
“Letterman was checked for GSR, passed a polygraph, and has no criminal history whatsoever.”
“If he covered himself up appropriately, wore gloves, and disposed of the clothes, he could keep the gunshot residue off of him,” I argued. “And lots of people beat the box—polygraphs are only so useful. Also, his lack of a record might just mean that he’s smart enough to escape detection by law enforcement.”
Even as I stated my argument, I was becoming less convinced of its validity.
“He had no known motive and had been working for Lanskard for three years. What’s your second scenario?”
“This one is your game changer,” I declared confidently as the complex of buildings and snow mounds grew closer. “The other option is your shooter is someone who can ski cross-country at a ridiculous pace. He has to be in incredible shape, so he won’t become totally exhausted and will be able to control his breathing well enough to shoot with pinpoint accuracy.” I held my hands up in front of me as if I was presenting a conclusion that anyone should have seen from the onset. “There can only be a handful of people in the country who can pull that off. If your shooter is local, it couldn’t possibly be that hard to find him. It would be like finding a sword in a haystack.”
The police cruiser came to a stop. “Actually,” Chief Colby interrupted, pointing through the windshield toward a sign, “it would be more like finding a sword in a stack of swords.”
I shielded my eyes from the glare of the sun and focused on a painted plywood sign affixed to an old barn. The words Central Pennsylvania Biathlon Training Camp were painted in crimson letters that jumped out from the gray background.
My eyes widened as I leaned back in my seat. I said, “Are you telling me that the Lanskard property sits beside a camp full of highly trained athletes who spend much of their lives skiing around with rifles?”
Colby swiveled to her right, patted my arm, and said, “Washaway Township has a lovely little inn where you can stay. I’ll tell Earl Maddox you’re coming.”
Excerpted from BOLT ACTION REMEDY courtesy of Down & Out Books. Copyright (c) 2017 J.J. Hensley. All Rights Reserved.
To learn more or order a copy, visit:
J.J. Hensley is a former police officer and former Special Agent with the U.S. Secret Service. He is the author of the novels Resolve, Measure Twice, and Chalk's Outline. J.J. graduated from Penn State University with a B.S. in Administration of Justice and has a M.S. degree in Criminal Justice Administration from Columbia Southern University. He lives near Pittsburgh, PA. Mr. Hensley's first novel, Resolve, was named one of the Best Books of 2013 by Suspense Magazine and was a Thriller Award finalist. He is a member of the International Thriller Writers and Sisters in Crime.